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IMPARSIAL regrets no human rights improvement in Indonesia despite a decade of reforms

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The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor  (IMPARSIAL), a FORUM-ASIA member, has criticised the government for not practicing what it preaches in regards to human rights issues. The organisation has highlighted several inconsistencies between laws and the implementation of human rights in the country despite a decade of reforms.

“The human rights situation despite a decade of reforms: reforms without human rights” by IMPARSIAL

(Jakarta, 21 May, 2008) The need for human rights as an important condition for the completion of democracy is obviously different in practice in Indonesia. Efforts to uphold human rights are not accorded their rightful place since the beginning of reformasi (reforms) in 1998. We acknowledge that several guarantees of democracy and human rights have been developed, however it is insufficient to improve the conditions of human rights in Indonesia. In reality, the various normative standards are not more than merely documents of law which do not possess real meaning for citizens during this decade of reformasi.

Furthermore, the human rights condition in Indonesia during the reformasi decade indicates a contradiction between the development at the normative level and the reality of its implementation on the ground. At the national level, while guaranteeing the rights of citizens, the state has disobeyed its responsibilities to fulfill and protect the rights of citizens. These inconsistencies can be seen from:

First, on the one hand the state acknowledges the right to life as a non-derogable right regardless of situations and conditions as enshrined in the Constitution (Articles 28 to 28I) and ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 6), but on the other hand the state has neglected those rights by deciding to reject calls for the abolishment of the death penalty by the Constitutional Courts, where it continued to practice the death penalty in 2007.

Second, on the one hand the state guarantees its citizens freedom from threats and freedom from acts of torture or acts which dehumanise a human being (Articles 28 – 281, section 1), but on the other hand the country uses its peace apparatus to commit acts of violence against citizens, resulting in deaths as we see in the case of the land conflicts in Pasuruan (Puslapur TNI AL) and Jeneponto.

Third, on the one hand the state guarantees freedom of religion and beliefs, which are also non-derogable rights (Article 28 E to Article 28 I, section 1 of the Constitution), but on the other hand the country tends to allow and does not prevent violent acts carried out by various groups on the basis of religion towards minority communities like the Ahmadiya.
Fourth, on the one hand the country guarantees the freedom of citizens to think and express their opinions (Article 28 E to Article 28 I section 1), but on the other hand it is the state that limits the citizens’ right to think by allowing bias and accusing IMPARSIAL for its critical attitude towards the state, and regarding the criticisms as a threat to the state and Constitution. Furthermore, a reflection of the state’s bias was reflected in the rejection of IMPARSIAL’s law suit in a decision by the South Jakarta’s Court Judge Panel.

Fifth, on the one hand the state guarantees the citizens’ right to move and develop themselves by fulfilling their basic needs (Article 28 C) and freedom from discrimination, but on the other hand the state established various District Regulations (Perda) with religion-based characteristics that limit and discriminate against its citizens, especially women.
IMPARSIAL views these contradictions as ironic. Democracy is adopted but its principles are trampled upon. Human rights have become a part of national laws, but only in its normal sense. When this condition is prolonged, it doesn’t only threaten religious freedom, but fit will also prevent us from becoming a developed nation. The important prerequisite to become a developed nation is to respect and appreciate human rights and basic human rights as the political and legal norms accepted by all countries in the world.
Generally, the condition to uphold human rights this past decade seem further from what is expected. The country’s institutions, which have a responsibility to uphold and respect human rights, have not indicated a positive and effective performance in efforts to protect citizens. What happens is they continue to neglect and prevent the constitutional rights of citizens. The dominant actions against human rights tend to be perpetrated by state apparatus in this decade although, in its development, it has also been perpetrated by non-state actors.

Departing from this condition, IMPARSIAL is of the opinion that the reformasi decade that we experienced has not placed human rights as an important component. The reforms that we hope can be the basis for the respect, upholding and fulfillment of human rights has been neglected and betrayed by the country. As well as that, human rights has been used as a political commodity to gain power through general elections from 1994 to 2004, where the powerful political parties have neglected programmes related to the fulfillment of human rights. Instead the country has not stopped from positioning human rights as a normative attitude which will result in the country being attacked by a narcissistic disease as it often sees itself as effective in carrying out its responsibilities towards human rights.

IMPARSIAL believes that any respect for human rights in the future will be met with obstacles. Violations of human rights and conditions of freedom of religion and beliefs, including the escalation of conflict in areas like Papua, will probably increase. Using human rights issues as a political commodity will also continue to be practised by political parties in the coming 2009 elections.

Rusdi Marpaung
Managing Director

Further information:

Bhatara Ibnu Reza 08158084527, Ghufron 081316284554